Bob Owen/San Antonio Express-News
The Associated Press
Published: 08 January 2013 09:51 PM
SAN ANTONIO — A school district can transfer a student who is citing religious reasons for her refusal to wear an identification card that is part of an electronic tracking system, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The parents of 15-year-old Andrea Hernandez had requested a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the school district from transferring their daughter from her San Antonio high school while the lawsuit on whether she should be forced to wear the tracking badge went through federal court.
Last fall, the Northside Independent School District began experimenting with locator chips in student ID badges on two campuses. Hernandez’s lawsuit argues that the ID rule violates her religious beliefs. Her family says the badge is a “mark of the beast.”
But U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia denied a request Tuesday to stop her from being transferred, saying the badge requirement “has an incidental effect, if any, on [Hernandez’s] religious beliefs.”
Garcia also wrote in his ruling that because Hernandez has worn a previous ID badge for several years, her refusal to wear the new badge “is clearly a secular choice rather than a religious concern.”
He said if Hernandez refuses the school district’s accommodation of wearing a badge without the tracking chip, the district can transfer her to another campus. In a prepared statement, the district said Hernandez, a sophomore, has until Jan. 22, the start of the second semester, to decide whether she will accept the compromise and stay at the magnet school or be transferred.
John Whitehead of the Virginia-based civil rights group the Rutherford Institute, said his organization will appeal. He said he expects Hernandez will not accept the compromise.